Sepoy Mutiny of 1857

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The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilization lies unveiled before our eyes, turning from its home, where it assumes respectable forms, to the colonies, where it goes naked. Did they not, in India, to borrow an expression of that great robber, Lord Clive himself, resort to atrocious extortion, when simple corruption could not […]

Partition of India

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“A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.” – Jawarharal Nehru, “Tryst With Destiny” speech celebrating Indian independence Whether the partition of these countries was wise and whether it […]

Nuclear Proliferation in the Third World

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Introduction Monday, May 10, 1998 marked a day that will not soon be forgotten. It was the day India began nuclear testing, much to the horrified shock of the U.S. and Western European superpowers. According to Arundhati Roy, a widely and extensively lauded and criticized Indian author, it is a day that will live in […]

Nationalism

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The methods of partitioning land have undergone tremendous change since the thirteenth century. During medieval and renaissance times, royal dynasties and religious organizations formed the foundations of political and geographical divisions. As the modern era approached, people began to question the Divine Right of Kings and the dynastic apportioning of their land.  The following are […]

Myths of the Native

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The Colonizer In his essay “Literature and Society,” Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o explores the mechanisms of imperialism. To ensure economic and political control the colonizing power tries to control the cultural environment: education, religion, language, literature, songs and other forms of artistic and cultural expression, hoping in this way to control a people’s self-image and world outlook. One repressive strategy used by […]

Museums and Colonial Exhibitions

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The tradition of exhibiting people of color in Western societies has existed since the earliest encounters between Europeans and indigenous populations in the New World and in Africa. Indeed, on his return to Spain after his first voyage to the New World in 1492, Columbus brought several Arawaks to Queen Isabella’s court, where one of them […]

Mimicry, Ambivalence, and Hybridity

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Daniel Dafoe’s 1719 novel, Robinson Crusoe, is a rich text for understanding the mechanisms of European colonialism and the relation between the colonizer and the colonized (represented by Crusoe and Friday). Dafoe represents Crusoe as being the ultimate incarnation of an Englishman: industrious, self-determining and ready to colonize natives. (See Anglophilia) Crusoe encounters a native and […]

Maps in Colonialism

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Introduction Maps as we know them today are the result of millennia of study and observation. Unlike modern maps, which focus on the exact lay of the land, the creations of ancient European mapmakers emphasized roads, cities, rivers, and safe harbors, since other details were not as important to travelers and traders at the time […]

Languages of South Asia

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A wealth of languages make their home on the Indian Subcontinent. Estimates for the number of languages spoken range from over three hundred to well over a thousand, though the bulk of these are dialects of one language or another. Even with the most conservative estimates, these languages differ greatly in their technical aspects, but a Russian […]

Language

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“… make language stammer, or make it ‘wail,’ stretch tensors through all of language, even written language, and draw from it cries, shouts, pitches, durations, timbres, accents, intensities.” – G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus Language is often a central question in postcolonial studies. During colonization, colonizers usually imposed or encouraged the dominance of their […]

Homophobia and Postcolonialism

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Let the Americans keep their sodomy, bestiality, stupid and foolish ways to themselves, out of Zimbabwe.  – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe Frantz Fanon, one of the earliest and most influential postcolonial theorists, saw homosexuality as a sign of psychological distress, exclusive to Western peoples (that is people of western/Caucasian racial stock) and directly related to […]

Geography and Empire

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Introduction and Definition of Terms The Oxford Dictionary of the English Language defines geography as “the description of the earth’s surface.” Its Greek root words, geo– and graphein, literally mean “earth writing.”  Maps are defined as “a representation usually on a flat surface of the whole or a part of an area.”  The English word “map” is […]

Gender and Nation

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The “Public” and “Private” Realms of Political Personhood Colonial powers brought with them daunting philosophical, theological, naval and mercantile traditions they used to justify occupation and control. Separating public from private, particular from universal, human from divine, family from state, and male from female realms of experience and action forms a crucial aspect of these […]

Female Genital Cutting

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The knife cut down the guardian of the village today. Now he is dead and gone. Before the village was dirty, But now without the guardian it is clean. So look at us, we are only women and the men have come to beat the tam-tam. They have phalli like the elephants. They have come […]

Cricket

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Introduction The game of cricket has had a long and complicated history in the West Indies. Originally imported to the West Indies as an agent of control and reaffirmation, the game steadily evolved into a cultural institution radically opposed to the original intentions of those who conspired for its import. The exact role cricket has […]

Communism in India

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Literature and the Communist Movement in India Having a general understanding of the communist movement in India is incredibly important in fully comprehending and appreciating several postcolonial novels, such as Arundhati Roy‘s The God of Small Things and Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh. Along with the politics, it is also important to recognize how nationalism, the caste system, and violence […]

Colonial Education

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What is Colonial Education? The process of colonization involves one nation or territory taking control of another nation or territory either through the use of force or by acquisition. As a byproduct of colonization, the colonizing nation implements its own form of schooling within their colonies. Two scholars on colonial education, Gail P. Kelly and […]

Apartheid Literature

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A Brief Introduction to the Apartheid After much conflict, in 1910, the Afrikaner community(the descendants of Dutch traders, live stock farmers and religious refugees from west Europe) and the British established a nations-state called the Union of South Africa.  The National Party was formed by the Afrikaners and the British formed the South African Party. […]

Apartheid

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Historical Background South Africa is a land of abundant natural resources, mild climate, and fertile lands. Their resources range from diamond and gold to platinum and their land is fertile enough to feed the rest of the world if cultivated intensively. Yet many believed Africa to be the Dark Continent, a continent of poverty, harsh […]

Rhodes, Cecil

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Introduction Born in 1853 in Hertfordshire, England, Cecil Rhodes was the fifth son of Reverend Francis William Rhodes. Although Rhodes debated whether to follow in his father’s footsteps as a vicar or his brothers’ paths in the army, he knew neither choice suited him. Cecil was quite sick as an adolescent so much so one […]

Nandy, Ashis

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Biography Ashis Nandy is a prolific political psychologist, sociologist, and cultural critic. Nandy has also coauthored a number of human rights reports and is active in movements for peace, alternative sciences and technologies, and cultural survival. He is a member of the Executive Councils of the World Future Studies Federation, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, […]

Memmi, Albert

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Introduction Born in Tunisia, a Jew in a predominately Muslim colony, Albert Memmi writes that he was “sort of a half-breed of colonization, understanding everyone because I belonged completely to no one” (xvi). Memmi’s 1957 book, The Colonizer and the Colonized (part of which has also been published under the title, Portrait of the Colonizer), is one of […]

Gilroy, Paul: The Black Atlantic

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Intellectual History in a Transatlantic Frame While some critics annotate the social and cultural impact that time-space compression has on our contemporary situation — in which material practices around the world speed up and reduce the distances between far-flung places — others have turned their attention to history to investigate what forms the transnational has […]

Fanon, Frantz

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Biography Frantz Fanon’s relatively short life yielded two potent and influential statements of anti-colonial revolutionary thought, Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and The Wretched of the Earth (1961), works which have made Fanon a prominent contributor to postcolonial studies. Fanon was born in 1925, to a middle-class family in the French colony of Martinique. He left Martinique in 1943, […]

Davis, Angela

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Biography “The work of the political activist inevitably involves a certain tension between the requirement that positions be taken on current issues as they arise and the desire that one’s contributions will somehow survive the ravages of time” – Angela Davis, (“Women, Culture and Politics,” 1989). Student, Professor, Communist, Activist, Radical, Presidential Candidate, Fugitive, Feminist, […]

Vargas Llosa, Mario

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Biography Peruvian novelist, essayist, journalist, literary critic, and recipient of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa was born in Arequipa, Peru, in 1936. He attended Leoncio Prado Military Academy from 1950 to 1952 and Colegio Nacional San Miguel de Piura in 1952. From 1955 to 1957, he studied Literature and Law at the University […]

Sidhwa, Bapsi

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Biography Bapsi Sidhwa is Pakistan’s leading diasporic writer. She has produced four novels in English that reflect her personal experience of the Indian subcontinent’s Partition, abuse against women, immigration to the US, and membership in the Parsi/Zoroastrian community. Born on August 11, 1938 in Karachi, in what is now Pakistan, and migrating shortly thereafter to Lahore, […]

Sembene, Ousmane

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As far as I am concerned, I no longer support notions of purity. Purity has become a thing of the past. . . I constantly question myself. I am neither looking for a school nor for a solution but asking questions and making others think. (qtd.in Niang 176) Biography (b. 1923, d. 2007) Born on […]

Rushdie, Salman

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Biography Salman Rushdie was born in Bombay in 1947, just months before the Partition of British India. His father, Ahmed, was a businessman and his mother, Negin, was a teacher. He grew up loving the escape literature and film offered, and he wrote his first story when he was ten years old. He encountered some […]

Roy, Arundhati

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The information provided on this site for Arundhati Roy is spread across multiple entries. Please click on the following entries for more information about Roy and her most famous novel, The God of Small Things. Kerala and The God of Small Things Caste System in India Christianity in India Communism in India Divorce in India Kathakali

Portis, Charles

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“Reading Portis is one of the great pure pleasures – both visceral and cerebral – available in modern American literature” (Rosenbaum 33). Biography Charles Portis was born on December 28, 1933 in El Dorado, Arkansas. His father, Samuel, was a public school superintendent, while his mother, Alice Waddell, was an adamant supporter of the literary arts. […]

Ondaatje, Michael

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Biography Michael Ondaatje was born on September 12, 1943 in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The son of Mervyn Ondaatje, a tea and rubber plantation superintendent and Doris Gratiaen, a part-time dancer inspired by Isadora Duncan. As a result of his father’s alcoholism, Ondaatje’s parents eventually separated in 1954 and he moved to England with […]

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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Biography Ngugi wa Thiong’o, a Kenyan writer of Gikuyu descent, began a very successful career writing in English before turning to work almost entirely in his native language, Gikuyu. In his 1986 Decolonising the Mind, his “farewell to English,” Ngugi describes language as a way people have not only of describing the world, but of understanding themselves. For him, English […]

Nair, Mira

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Biography The highly acclaimed director and producer from India, Mira Nair leapt into the world’s spotlight with her film Salaam, Bombay! which was nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA Award. Mira Nair was born in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa to a civil servant in 1957. She went on to attend the University of New Delhi […]

Mukherjee, Bharati

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Biography Bharati Mukherjee was born on July 27, 1940 to wealthy parents, Sudhir Lal and Bina Mukherjee in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. She learned how to read and write by the age of three. In 1947, she moved to Britain with her family at the age of eight and lived in Europe for about three […]

Mehta, Deepa

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Biography Canadian-based filmmaker Deepa Mehta was born in Amritsar, India in 1949. She received a bachelors and masters degree in philosophy from the University of New Delhi, where she met her husband, Canadian filmmaker and producer Paul Saltzman. Shortly after getting married, she immigrated to Canada in 1973. However, the marriage was short lived, and […]

McGuckian, Medbh

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“I know being a woman for me for a long time was being less, being excluded, being somehow cheap, being inferior, being sub. I associated being a woman with being a Catholic and being Irish with being from the North, and all of these things being not what you wanted to be. If you were a […]

McEwan, Ian

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Biography Ian McEwan was born in 1948 in Aldershot, England. His father was an officer in the British Army and McEwan spent his early childhood in various places throughout the world, including Libya and Singapore. He received his B.A. in English from the University of Sussex and an M.A. in creative writing from the University of East […]

Marshall, Paule

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Biography In 1929, Paule Marshall was born Valenza Pauline Burke in Brooklyn, New York. She visited Barbados, her parents’ birthplace, for the first time at the age of nine. Marshall graduated from Brooklyn College in 1953 and graduate school at Hunter College in 1955. Early in her life, Marshall wrote a series of poems reflecting […]

Lee, Li-Young

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Family History Li-Young Lee was born in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1957, the son of exiled Chinese parents. His mother came from a noble family; her father Yuan Shi-kai was the first president of the Republic of China. Lee’s father, Lee Kuo Yuan, came from a family of gangsters and entrepreneurs. Their marriage received official disapproval; moreover, […]

Kipling, Rudyard

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Take up the White Man’s burden– Send forth the best ye breed– Go, bind your sons to exile To serve your captives’ need; On fluttered folk and wild– Your new-caught sullen peoples, Half devil and half child. – Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden” Biography This famous writer was born Joseph Rudyard Kipling in Bombay on […]

Khalifeh, Sahar

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Biography Much postcolonial fiction available to English-speaking readers is written by native historical witnesses; that is to say, the author has lived through what s/he writes, or is inspired by events and circumstances occurring in the country of his/her origin. Sahar Khalifeh, a Palestinian from Nablus, a town in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is no […]

Hulme, Keri

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Biography Keri Hulme, a New Zealand native, was born on March 9, 1947, in Christchurch, New Zealand. She is the daughter of John W., a carpenter and businessman, and Mere, a credit manager, and sister to five siblings. Her father died when she was eleven years old. Hulme is descended from a rich background. She […]

Head, Bessie

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“Love is so powerful, it’s like unseen flowers under your feet as you walk.” – Bessie Head, A Question of Power Bessie Head, one of Africa’s most prominent writers, was born in South Africa in 1937. The child of an “illicit” union between a Scottish woman and a black man, Head was taken from her mother […]

Gunesekera, Romesh

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Biography Romesh Gunesekera was born in Sri Lanka in 1954, moving to London in 1972. He grew up speaking both English and Sinhala. Gunesekera won the Liverpool College Poetry Prize in 1972, the Rathborne Prize in Philosophy in 1976, and the first prize in the Peterloo Open Poetry Competition in 1988. Gunesekera’s first book, Monkfish Moon, was […]

Ghosh, Amitav

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Biography Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He grew up in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), Sri Lanka, Iran and India. After graduating from the University of Delhi, he went to Oxford to study Social Anthropology and received a Master of Philosophy and a PhD in 1982. In 1980, he went to Egypt to […]

Emecheta, Buchi

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Biography On July 21, 1944 in Yaba near Lagos, Nigeria, Buchi Emecheta was born to Jeremy Nwabudike and Alice Okwuekwu Emecheta. At a young age, Emecheta was orphaned and she spent her early childhood years being educated at a missionary school. In 1960, at the age of sixteen, Emecheta was married to Sylvester Onwordi, a […]

Djebar, Assia

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Biography Assia Djebar was born Fatima-Zohra Imalayen in Cherchell, Algeria on August 4, 1936. She published her first novel, La Soif, under pen name Assia Djebar in 1957, followed by her second novel, Les Impatients, in 1958. In that same year, Djebar married Walid Garn and worked toward advanced degree in history at University of Algiers. In 1962, Djebar […]

Dabydeen, David

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Biography David Dabydeen was born on December 9, 1955 to Krishna Prasad and Vera Dabydeen, the parents of a peasant family, in a county in Guyana named Berbice. Until 1966, Guyana was a British colony predominantly inhabited by Africans and Indians who immigrated to the Caribbean during a massive movement, which transplanted more than half a […]

Cliff, Michelle

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Biography Michelle Cliff was born in Jamaica and grew up there and in the United States. She was educated in New York City and at the Warburg Institute at the University of London, where she completed a PhD on the Italian Renaissance. She is the author of novels (Abeng, No Telephone To Heaven, and Free Enterprise), short […]

Césaire, Aimé

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Biography Aimé Césaire was born in 1913 in Martinique in the French Caribbean. He left for Paris in 1931 at the age of 18 with a scholarship for school. During his time at the Lycee Louis-le Grand, he helped found a student publication, Etudiant Noir.  In 1936, Césaire started working on his famed piece Cahier, which was not published […]